Felicity is 6 weeks old (As of Monday), and also as of Monday, I am back to work. Don't get me started on America and maternity leave. Suffice it to say, I would have preferred to stay home longer, but that was not in the cards for me, so let me talk about my experience in returning to work this week.
The best way to describe my return is "overwhelming", in every regard.
The logistics of returning were overwhelming. On Sunday evening (and really, throughout my maternity leave) I was anxious (maybe even panicked at times...) about the logistics - getting everyone and everything they need to where they need to be on time. I was terrified of forgetting to take milk or a pacifier to daycare, or forgetting to sign a form and getting there and being turned away, etc etc etc. Of course it all DID go smoothly, I made lists, I remembered everything, and put safety measures in place in case I do forget in the future (daycare keeps their own pacifier there, and has frozen breastmilk, I stuck some milk in my parents freezer, etc).
The emotions of returning were overwhelming. They didn't hit me until Monday morning when I had to put Felicity in her carseat to go. I didn't want to put her down. She is SO tiny. Of course, the fact she is so tiny means she doesn't even realize I am leaving her really yet (that will come I am sure), but it was still difficult from my end. I mainly avoided tears at drop off by doing it quickly and moving on to take Ben to his room. And the emotional drama continues, because I am realizing how with a 6 week old, there are so many milestones coming. Smiles, rolling, etc. And, some days, if she is sleepy in the evening, I hardly get to see her eyes or interact with her at all besides feeding her. (Last night was good, she was very alert in the evening and I got to make faces at her, and saw some hints of a smile and her working on other facial expressions).
Returning to work was overwhelming! I am lucky I had written down my passwords, I did not remember them at all. It took quite a bit of dredging to get my work knowledge back to the surface. I asked a lot of stupid questions on Monday and Tuesday and made some very stupid mistakes. They let me ease in though, so luckily none of these mistakes had impact on clients. They just made me look stupid. LOL. I am feeling much more 'With it" work wise already though, so that's good.
Work was also overwhelming from a social perspective. I have spent the last 6 weeks mostly socially isolated, with occasional visits with close friends. All the sudden I am back on a floor with 100 people, all of whom know I was on leave and want to know how I am doing. They are all happy to see me, and I was not that happy to see them (because I didn't want to be back). Readjusting to talking to so many people on a daily basis has been a challenge.
Another challenge is dealing with pumping. With Ben, I did not go back to work until 5.5 months, so I had a HUGE stash of breastmilk saved up before I went back. This time, I am only (maybe, if I calculated), a week or so a head. If my supply dips much I will not keep up with her needs. I keep trying to convince myself that supplementing with formula would be fine, no big deal (I am trying to accept this so I am less stressed, not because it is an immanent reality), but I can't accept that. I want her to have the same 12 months of exclusive breastfeeding that Ben got, and I feel like I will fail her if I can't do that. Besides that stress, pumping at work means no time for breaks for anything else. I have been pumping at 9:30, 12, and 2:30 (roughly). I cannot go out for lunch. I cannot use a break to go on a walk. And, since my breaks tend to run on the longer side now (they are close to 15 minutes... but spill over a bit), I feel guilty if I need to do other little things like fill my water bottle or wash a dish, things I used to not even think about, because I feel like pumping takes me away from my desk all the time. And my work place is by no means strict about this sort of thing, its more a feeling of personal responsibility.
Its hard to separate out what challenges are arising from having two kids and working, and what challenges are arising from having a 6 week old and working. Either way, the big thing I feel, that I have never felt before, is that every minute matters. I feel like there is something I should be doing every minute of every day. I need to hold baby. If I am not holding baby, I should be packing my lunch for the next day, or freezing milk, or doing laundry. Every minute counts. Maybe I will become more productive... or go insane. One or the other.
And that is my back to work story. I am sure ALL of these challenges will get easier with time and practice. Thanks for listening.